"No to war" returns in confusion

Some 3,500 people rally in Barcelona's Plaça Catalunya to denounce the invasion of Ukraine

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Rally in Plaça Catalunya to denounce the invasion of Ukraine

BarcelonaThe outcry that caused even George Bush Sr. to mention Barcelona in 2003 was back in Barcelona this Wednesday to make itself heard at the heart of the Catalan capital. It was, however, much more less intense and, above all, much more confused. The fact is the pacifist slogan "No to war", which was used to protest against an invasion of Iraq seeking weapons that did not exist, seems to have aged very badly. In Plaça Catalunya this Wednesday there were about 3,500 people but few seemed to agree. So different were the profiles that while some denounced NATO as "a terrorist organisation", others called on the alliance to intervene in the conflict immediately and kick the Russians out of Ukraine. Among the protesters was Bores Compta, a young Catalan of Ukrainian origin who summarises the debate with a message doing the rounds on social media: "If Putin lays down his weapons, the war will be over. If Ukraine lays down its weapons, Ukraine will cease to exist".

Very close to him is a Catalan who knows Ukraine very well, Pere Martí. He defines himself as a pacifist and took part in the historic demonstration in 2003, but he doesn't agree with the idea of laying down arms either: "In 1939 fascist troops entered this very square while some countries were saying 'No to war'... until [the fascists] entered their own countries and then everything changed," he says. On the stage set up in Plaça Catalunya, they the manifesto has already been read and now the sound system is playing Imagine by John Lennon. "My father and my brothers enlisted six days ago," explains Lisa Tambovtseva, a 19-year-old Ukrainian. "I'm not going back to my country because I can't do anything and my parents would suffer for me," she says. Behind her are two girls who had come to visit her from Ukraine and have had to stay in Catalonia. In her city, Odessa, Putin's troops seem to be advancing despite resistance, according to breaking news reports. "I am very worried," she says.

Among the crowd there were also veteran social rights activists who seemed unsure whether they wanted to take part, some Georgians and also part of Barcelona's Russian community. "I have Ukrainian friends and I tell them that I think it's terrible, that I support them," explained Arseni Maximov, holding a banner against Vladimir Putin. "In Russia right now there are workers who have lost their jobs because they signed an anti-war manifesto," he says. He is an anti-Putin militant and is also suffering from the economic blockade against Russian banks and is unable to withdraw money.

Arms to Ukraine

Since the outbreak of the conflict, on Thursday last week, anti-war rallies have been organised in different Catalan cities, but this Wednesday's rally, which had broad social support, was expected to be the largest. It so happened that this Wednesday Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, announced the direct shipment of weapons to Ukraine to fight the Russian invasion. Until now Spanish weapons were sent through the European Union, through the European Peace Support Fund, but from now on the relationship will be bilateral.

The pacifist manifesto, signed by more than 300 entities, demands that the international community devote "all its efforts to achieve a comprehensive cessation of hostilities and the withdrawal of all troops from Ukraine". Despite the differences among the attendees, some more pacifist than others, the majority believe that the event was worthwhile, if only so that those affected by this war can see that they are not alone.